Tuscany is not a place where there is a shortage of options to eat well. In fact, some might say that a trip to Tuscany is best spent eating.
Our stay was based out of an agriturismo near San Gimignano. An agriturismo is a working farm, and in our case, the farm has its own garden that we were able to pick from. Fresh, picked from the farm apricots, zucchini, salad, basil, carrots and more made their way to our dinner table each night.
There are markets of course, where you can find just about any vegetable, fruit, meat, cheese, or fish. The San Lorenzo Market in Florence was one of my favorite places to shop when I lived there, and going back to visit was a delight.
Then of course, there are the restaurants. Osteria, trattorie, ristoranti. Name them what you will, but by asking around for local, non touristy spots, you are likely to be in for a treat.
Our first outing, still jet lagged, having just gotten off the plane, we stopped in an area called Argentario. Argentario is a peninsula,on the Tuscan coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 150km south of Florence. A cousin that has a seaside home in the area recommended Da Ulisse (KM 3, Strada della Giannella – Albinia GR – Tel: 0564.820214), located right on the beach, suggesting that we get there on the early side of lunch since we did not have a reservation. Which turned out to be very wise advice since soon after sitting down, the picturesque outside dining area soon filled with groups of families and friends. Fresh seafood (it is worth splurging and getting a mix of antipasti for the table), fresh pasta…the view out into the sea…even my jet lagged foggy self was able to savor it all.
In Siena, we were given the name of the Osteria Boccon del Prete (via s. Pietro, 17, Siena, 0577228038) by a salesperson at Furla (one of my favorite places to buy great purses). From the bruschette with prosciutto and mozzarella to pici al cavolo nero to the selection of cheese, every bite was worthy of an “ooh” or “ah.” Principessa even guarded her plate of pasta from the waiter in fear that he might take it away before she was done.
In Florence we at one of my favorite restaurants, owned by a former teacher of mine from my days as a student, Osteria dei Pazzi. Osteria dei Pazzi (Via dei Lavatoi, 1, 50122 Florence, +39 055 2344880) is centrally located near the Teatro Verdi and the Church of Santa Croce. Paolo Paroli, the face behind the osteria sings and whistles as you eat, and the food is better than anyone’s nonna (grandmother) could have cooked. Everything is homemade, and the tastes of things like the cheese with a delicious jam, tagliatella ai funghi, or the ravioli stuffed with ricotta agrumi make your mouth water. (Also, don’t be surprised if Paolo takes a seat at your table and starts chatting with you.)
The truth is that it is very hard to have a bad meal in Italy. But a great meal, that is not relegated to a menu for tourists, is worth seeking out. The culinary delights of Tuscany are not pretentious or over the top. Foodies will enjoy the home cooked feel and innovative uses of simple ingredients. Or at least, the foodies in our family do. And yes, there are reviews on Trip Advisor (and even Yelp) but asking a local for their favorite is one of the ways that we try to immerse ourselves especially when traveling internationally.
What about you? How do you get your restaurant advice when you are traveling?